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Overachiever Wines | 1 Wine Dude - Page 14

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Risk Is The Business: Earthquakes, Amphorae and the Quest For Terroir at De Martino

“It’s not really very safe.”

Hearing those words, from winemaker Marcelo Retamal in a barrel area that is little more than a small warehouse on the Isla De Maipo estate of De Martino, surrounded by support beams that have been twisted and broken like so many toothpicks, and overshadowed by a ceiling that looks as though parts of it could drop on top of our heads at any moment without warning… well, let’s just say I was hoping that whatever gods dole out the karma points were forgiving me for my initial reaction of “Well… f*cking DUH!

In California, I’d have had to sign a 37-page waiver just to look at this building, and here we were traipsing about inside of it without even wearing hardhats. But this dark-haired, olive-skinned, brown-eyed winemaking guy had me totally at ease despite the less-than-secure surroundings.  Marcelo carries an almost ego-less assurance in his laid-back manner, no doubt a side effect of his fifteen-year tenure at De Martino (one of the longest stretches in the modern history of a country where most winemaking staff turnover is closer to 15 months than it is to 15 years).

De Martino’s current barrel aging area is, of course, a victim of the February 27, 2010 8.8-magnitude earthquake that in other regions of this long, thin country, had squashed enormous stainless steel tanks of wine as if they were empty beer cans at a college fraternity party. Our visit trails the devastating March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan by only a few days, and the resilient Chileans feel a kinship to the Japanese quake victims that is mostly unspoken but still palpable whenever the topic of The Quake comes up (though it doesn’t take a shared disaster for one to feel the emotional impacts of the devastation near Tokyo: one report, which told of parents finding the bodies of a class of Ishinomaki kindergarteners huddled together after their school bus was engulfed in flames triggered by the recent earthquake’s resultant tsunami, had me privately shaken and withdrawn). Chileans are a forward-looking bunch, and are quick to talk about The Quake, a situation in almost polar opposition to the way that they seem to avoid direct talk about their political past, referencing it only in the abstract (Augusto Pinochet is never mentioned by name, sort of like how Hitler never ever comes up in conversations in Germany).

We’re not here to look at barrels or taste aging samples, though.  We are here to look at Marcelo’s clay amphorae.  The ones in which he (almost crazily) plans to ferment and age País (the grape of low-end boxed wines) from the cooler Itata region in the south, using carbonic maceration and adding as little sulfur as possible, burying them in the ground à la how they used to do things in the Jura in Spain…

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No Limits, No Excuses: Trinchero Goes For Broke

Vinted on March 17, 2011 binned in California wine, kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines

As in, almost literally going for broke, because I don’t think they’re actually profitable yet.  And that’s just fine with the people footing the bills.  Sounds nuts but it will all make sense in minute. Or three…

What would you do if you went to work every day with almost no limitations? Tools, money, ideas – nothing really holding you back?

It’s a situation to which many would instantly want to switch if given the chance, but with which almost none of us can truly identify, and most likely most of us never will.  But it’s pretty much the business-as-usual case for Trinchero’s young winemaker Mario Monticelli.

That’s because Mario works for Bob Trinchero, who owns the Sutter Home empire and the guy whose family name has been tied to wine in some way/shape/form for over 100 years (Bob Trinchero was recently inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame, a choice that I like to think of as a nice little reminder that while we all like to wax poetic over the tiny fine wine market, it’s the Fres, Sycamore Lanes, and White Zinfandels of the world that really make this industry GO).  Interestingly, Trinchero’s beautiful St. Helena winemaking property has the new-kid-on-the-block, no-expenses-spared feel despite Sutter Home having about as deep a set of historical roots in the Napa Valley as any other producer along Highway 29.

“It’s a dream job,” Mario told me when I visited in February. “But it also means you have no excuses!”…

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A Wine For Epic NFL Playoff Victories

Vinted on January 20, 2011 binned in overachiever wines, wine review

The defining characteristic of the most preferable wine for imbibing while viewing epic, come-from-behind NFL playoff battles between hated sports rivals (aside from the wine having been paid for by someone else, that is), would be that the wine is very good without being too good.

[ I should note before we go any farther down field, so to speak, that if you’re a Baltimore Ravens fan I am most likely about to lose you as a friend.  Forever.  BUT… if you’re a fan of Argentine reds, we may become fast friends after this.  If you’re fan of both the Ravens and Argentine reds, prepare to be conflicted. ]

The main point about the best NFL playoff wines was driven home to me via Facebook in a chat with Yair Haidu (founder of the excellent www.haidu.net):

“…shouldn’t be a complicated wine. the mind has to be fully devoted to the game…”

While a good beer of course fills the NFL playoff imbibing bill quite admirably, sometimes even the most die-hard beer fans, much like the play-calling of hall-of-fame defensive coordinators, just need to change things up once in a while.  And it goes without saying that no self-respecting wine geek would stoop to drinking plonk during an NFL playoff game, just as no self-respecting Steelers fan would be caught dead wearing Ravens purple.

When it comes to NFL-viewing, distractions (too good or too bad), are killers: missing the big play as it unfolds live, because you have your nose too long in the glass, is likely to give you a gut-wrenching “got to be the sickest man in America” feeling (sort of like a high-priced, free-agent wide receiver dropping the type of key, clutch, do-or-die-time pass for which his team hired him in the first place).

So anyway… for the big games, what wine should it be?…

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Testicles, Terraces and Red Tape: The Trials of Port Production in the Douro (1WineDude TV Episode 24)

Vinted on December 23, 2010 binned in 1WineDude TV, best of, kick-ass wines, on the road, overachiever wines

“Lagare volume dimensions are naturally dictated by the lowest testicles of the shortest man.”

Lagares, of course, are the long, low vats in which Port grapes were once (and sometimes still, though rarely) crushed by foot. The quote above is from the straight-shooting Miles Edlemann, the straight-shooting viticulturist for some of the Symington Family estates in Portugal’s Douro region. It was during a visit to one of those stunning Douro properties – Quinta da Cavadinha – that I met Miles and where he demonstrated one of the more… uhm… intimate aspects of Port wine production by climbing into one of the Warre’s wine company empty lagares and imitating an exaggerated, wide stomping stomping motion with his feet (pants still on, of course!).

You see, the dimensions of the workers stomping grapes were quite important, because the shortest of them had to be able to walk somewhat freely through the volume of grapes in order to crush them efficiently without certain anatomical aspects being compromised… or compromising the crush, as it were, and so… errr… you get the idea. Today, most Port grapes are crushed via large machines that emulate quite effectively the pressure of the human foot (though the machines lack testicles – or, at least, if they have them I didn’t see them and I’m not in any hurry to do so)…

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